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Broken Ankles and The Workplace

A broken ankle may refer to any fracture in the three bones that make up the ankle joint, the fibula, tibia and talus. The ankle is critical to balancing the body and providing it with mobility. A broken ankle injury will require that the joint is completely immobilised for up to a week, and it will usually need to be elevated during that time. When the bones have been realigned and are ready to begin the healing process, a plaster cast will be applied, and a patient will soon be able to move around with the help of crutches. The recovery period may still take many months however, and an injured person may not be able to return to work for an extended period, especially where their job involves long periods of standing up or physical exertion. In the case of a severe ankle break, a person may develop a permanent limp and weakness in the ankle, meaning they are no longer able to continue in their current employment.

Simple ankle breaks are relatively simple to treat, and a patient will normally make a full recovery with no residual effects of the injury. Other ankle breaks are more complex; a compound fracture is where the bone has penetrated the skin and is sticking out, while with a comminuted fracture the bone will have broken or shattered into any number of pieces. With these types of broken ankle injuries surgery will be required to reassemble or realign the bones, and hold them in place during the healing process. This may involve the insertion of plates, pins and screws, especially with compound fractures where different sections of bone will need to be repositioned and secured. Muscles, tendons and ligaments may also be damaged when an ankle is broken, potentially causing long-term weakness in these soft tissues. Possible medical complications include infections in the bone (Osteomyelitis), blood vessel or nerve damage, and future development of arthritis in the ankle.

Broken ankle injuries among workers are normally the result of poor maintenance of work premises on the part of management. Examples of poorly maintained premises include slippery floors, obstacles left in workers paths, uneven surfaces and defective installations. Broken ankles are most common in hectic working environments where manual handling of loads takes place, such as construction sites and warehouses. A worker may just as easily break their ankle falling over an electric cable in an office however, and slip and trip hazards exist in all industries and workplaces. Defective equipment may also cause broken ankle injuries. Those working at height may be injured if scaffolding collapses or if a safety harness fails for example. Employers must ensure the equipment they provide workers with is safe to use. They must also enforce a safe system of work that minimises the risk of broken ankle injuries among their employees.

Members of the public may suffer broken ankle injuries in public places, especially in freezing winter conditions when snow and ice poses a constant outdoors menace. The occupiers and owners of premises visited by the public, such as shops and supermarkets, have a legal duty to ensure their premises are properly maintained, and safe for their visitors. Both outdoor areas and indoor areas must be inspected regularly, and where hazards arise they must be promptly and effectively dealt with. Accidents are common in store car parks, and in supermarket aisles, where products may have been spilled or floors recently cleaned. Slips and trips in public places cause the majority of hospital admissions for broken ankles each year, with motor vehicle accidents the second most common cause. Compensation for a simple ankle fracture will range between 3,000 and 4,000. Higher awards will reflect the residual extent of the injury and its ongoing effects on an injured person’s life.